At Ascend Packaging Systems, we take the time to get to know the unique challenges of your operation and we invest in the best materials for your packaging solutions. We’ve made a promise in commitment to getting every detail right for our customers.
Delivering Accuracy and Customization in Bottle Filling Solutions
British pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) manufactures the popular Tums line of antacid products. The company’s primary production and packaging facility for Tums is located in downtown St. Louis, MO, where pharmacist James Howe invented the Tums brand nearly a hundred years ago.
Recently, the site and their team faced a difficult challenge when the company wanted to launch a new bottle size and style on a limited time frame to meet growing demand for its popular Tums Chewy Bites product.
Their unique shape and features makes Tums bottles very recognizable on supermarket and pharmacy shelves, but this iconic shape comes with some packaging challenges. The difficulty with bottling Tums products has always been accurately filling the large tablets into the narrow bottle opening.
Bottling the new Tums Chewy Bites tablets promised to be even more challenging, because the Chewy Bites tablets are thicker than regular Tums tablets, and the bottle opening is narrower. The packaging team in St. Louis needed to quickly demonstrate they could successfully, accurately, and cost effectively fill the new bottles.
“We were up against the clock and were told that, if our group couldn’t find a solution, the company would have to outsource packaging to a contract packager,” said Dave Amelung, a GSK packaging engineer heavily involved with the project.
Interesting in seeing more of the features and benefits of our bottle filling slats, manifolds, and change parts? Take a closer look.
Bottle Filler Change Parts Designed for Their Specific Needs
GSK turned to Ascend Packaging, Rolling Meadows, IL, for a solution. The company supplies a wide range of pharmaceutical packaging and inspection equipment, including custom-designed, bottle-filling slats, and manifolds.
“We’ve worked side by side with Ascend Packaging for various change-part needs, and they’ve made several custom parts for us in the past to solve other complex challenges,” Amelung said.
On a bottle filling machine, the manifold collects the counted tablets and distributes them into the empty bottles below. To ensure accurate bottle filling, the openings at the bottom of the manifold channels must align perfectly with the bottle openings.
Due to this product’s large tablet size and small bottle opening, the supplier needed to design a custom manifold that would also precisely orient the tablets as they entered the bottle, which was easier said than done.
“If you looked at these tablets and at the bottles we were trying to get them into, you would say that there’s no possible way,” said Amelung.
Packaging Solutions Developed to be Durable and Long-Lasting
The custom manifold’s main assembly is constructed of Delrin, a low-friction, wear-resistant plastic, and the unit fully disassembles for cleaning. 316L stainless steel dividers allow the manifold to merge 44 upper channels into 22 lower channels for bottle filling.
“Despite the innovative custom items Ascend Packaging had made for us in the past, we were concerned that this product was not designed to go into this bottle.”
The supplier expedited the project, ran some initial tests, and quickly arrived at an effective design that included precise channel angles and pitches to ensure that the tablets entered the bottles in a vertical orientation without slowing down the filling process.
“The manifold channels act like coin slots to position the tablets vertically as they enter the bottles, but they also allow the tablets to flow freely to avoid decreased filling speeds,” said Denis Adam, senior sales engineer at Ascend Packaging, “While we were confident in our design, and our testing indicated that throughput rates shouldn’t be affected, the true operating speeds wouldn’t be definitive until GSK ran the manifold on their slat filler.”
Your Success Is Our Success
With the manifold design completed, GSK rushed to perform their first test. “We installed the manifold, started up the machine and crossed our fingers,” said Amelung. “To our joy, the manifold was a success, and the bottles were filling accurately, without any issues.”
According to Amelung, immediately achieving a successful bottling run meant that the site could continue with the company’s aggressive time frame for the bottle launch.
“We went to Ascend Packaging looking for yet another custom solution, and they came through,” he said. “We were literally walking around the plant high-fiving each other.”
Ascend Packaging Systems LLC.
3885 Industrial Avenue
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008